Been There, Done That…Or So I Thought

Jennifer —  April 25, 2012 — Leave a comment

When you first walk in my friend’s house, whom we are helping to rehab, you have this view.  This is an adorable little home.  It is very “cottageish” and in really good condition.  There was nothing scary lurking underneath the floor or the walls.  I am talking about those unknowns that take chunks from your budget with no visual improvement.  It just needed to be updated.  The house looked dark and the old injectable steroids paint looked dingy.  My friend and I couldn’t wait to brighten it up with paint.  The first area of dingy…the fireplace.

It is a stone rock fireplace.  I have seen many a stone fireplace with smooth stones.  At first glance this would have been my description.  When I got up close to clean it I realized there was no stone involved.  This bad boy is a bunch of rocks mortared to the fireplace.  I have seen these rocks time and time again when we have dug them out of our flower beds.  These are all over the state of Missouri and somehow, probably about 30 years ago,  200 of them were placed over this fire place.  I must give the home builders props for being resourceful.

I have painted two fireplaces white so I approached this project with a little arrogance.  Painting a fireplace is time consuming but has been pretty easy when we did it here and then in our house here.  The result was this modern white, high gloss finish.

Flip House Before:

Flip House After:

My House Before:

My House After

There is a bible verse that my dad use to quote to me often.  “Pride comes before the fall.”  I thought of this as I was humbled by this rock fireplace.  The above fire places I used a brush and a roller, the brick was flat, had very little holes, and light grout.  This fireplace, on the other hand, had about 100 nooks and crannies in each rock.

On top of that, it was covered in dark grout.  It took me 25 minutes to prime 3 rocks…in one coat.  I am not exaggerating.  The Hubs watched me start and came in 20 minutes later and said “Babe, this isn’t going to work”.  He spoke aloud what I was screaming in my head but couldn’t get myself to admit.  I was finding out quickly, since the rocks were so porous,  this puppy needed at least 3 coats of primer and 3 coats of paint.  200 rocks at 8 minutes a rock…you are looking at 1,600 minutes (or about 24 hours) for one coat.  With drying time and 5 other coats we are talking  an entire week.  I was thinking two days!  It was time to bust out the sprayer.  I didn’t have this luxury with my house because it was a hassle to move out my furniture.  It was not needed in the flip house. We make a little tarp canopy and I went to town.  15 minutes later I was done with the first coat:

An hour and 15 minutes later I had the second coat on.  I didn’t always spray this close but you have to a little to get between some of the rocks. I was worried about the paint running.  The rocks and mortar were so porous, it never happened.  After the first coat, I backed up a lot more.

Another hour later I had the third coat on and the next day sprayed it with the latex paint.  I got worried in the middle of this project.  I was expecting the look of my fireplace but I quickly had to let it go.  Because of the deep holes in the rock it was really hard to get a consistent coat of white primer and paint.  I never thought I would be able to get all of them.  This job was a lot harder than any I had done or ones that I have read about on other blogs like younghouselove.  Again, the difference was the fact that mine and theirs was brick.

My advice in painting a stone rock fireplace:  

  • Keep Priming.  With more coats you spray, the more covereage you will see.  There is no need to try to get them all in one coat.  Be throuough but let go of having to get them all in one coat.
  • Prepare yourself for more coats.
  • Embrace the imperfections.  This type of fireplace is not going to turn out crisp or modern.  I had to remind myself to stop comparing it.  This is rock.  A painted rock fireplace is going to look more cottagy than sleek.  Once I let go, I began to feel more confident and began to really love it.

The fireplace went from this:

To This:


Jane and TanyaIt looks so great with the girls decor!


Excuse the poor lighting.  We have not painted the walls or added back the vent covers but it already brightens the entire living room.  The walls have yet to be painted but this little house is starting to come to life.  Here are the steps we took for one coat

  1. Spray this kind of fireplace with a sprayer.  If you don’t have one purchase one for this project.  I promise you will use it again and again.  I also promise that it will save you so much time.  This the the sprayer that we purchased.  We actually got it on clearance at Lowes for $30.00.  We have used it to paint furniture, doors, trim, bookcases.  Its amazing and if you are a DIYer you will be glad you have it.  If not, buy it, use it and sell it on ebay or in a garage sale.  People like me would scoop up a tool like that without even thinking.
  2. Wear a bandana over your hair.  The little mist gets everywhere.  Oil based paint is a pain to get out.
  3. For each coat:
    1. Spray up an down first.  This gets a good coat on the front of the rocks and on the top and bottom edges of the rocks.  It also get a good coat on the mortar.
    2. Spray at an angle going left to right.  This gets the left sides of the rocks and gets the mortar at an angle.  The dark mortar is a bugger to cover.
    3. Spray at an angle going right to left.  This gets the right side of the rocks and gets the mortar at angle
  4. Repeat Primer three times (we used oil-based because this fireplace will be in action this winter.  I well used fireplace has smoke stains.  Oil based covers better)
  5. After last primer coat use a brush to get those impossible spots.  If a sprayer hasn’t covered them in three coats you can’t get it with a sprayer
  6. Paint the fireplace with Latex paint.  (we used Sherwin Williams Pure White thanks to Sherwin Williams 40% off sale last weekend.
  7. Stand back and enjoy your new fireplace.
note:  there is high heat paint for fireplaces if you want to use this.  We use our painted fireplace alot and didn’t need it.  I would use high heat paint if we decided to paint the firebox or fireplace door.  We are not so there was no need.  If that makes you feel more comfortable…high heat paint is out there for you.
Have any of you been humbled by a project that you felt confident to do at first?
Thanks for reading,



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